Why Christians Should Renounce Torture

This guest post is by LCC reader Jonathan Boatwright. Thank you for your submission, Jonathan! The views expressed in any guest article should not be construed as an official position paper of and are the work of the guest author alone.

Many people associate the idea of torture with the looming specter of a tyrant of yesteryear or a modern sadistic monster of some unfortunate, oppressed and backwards nation. Torture is performed by jackbooted thugs with Swastika arm patches, brutal Japanese Kempetai military police, or the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, not by the United States, where we expect better of ourselves.

Yet today in many quarters of American life, from Average Joe to Washington politico, a debate rages over torture. The key issues are the moral status of “waterboarding,” and the contrived sobriquet of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Those who expect better of their country and her leadership in the area of torture are accused of not caring about the American lives at stake, or, God forbid, of being a liberal. Torture supporters attempt to justify their brutality using the faulty moral argument that because “they,” meaning the terrorists, do it to us, why not afford them the same courtesy? They say that forbidding torture means that we are “coddling” terrorists rather than treating them “as they deserve.” But to any Patriot who believes in the rule of law, justice, and rising above the barbarism of your enemy, these arguments have no basis in fact other than to attempt to disarm a torture opponent’s argument, and besmirch a torture opponent’s character.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know about you, but I personally believe that America loses a portion of what is left of her freedom loving heritage, her sense of goodwill, and also her right to oppose such heinous acts like torture, when she abdicates the moral high ground. Who are we as Americans, morally, if we approve of the very things we denounce other countries, governments, and, yes, even terrorists, of doing in this present day world? For what we now would make common place – and claim is morally justified – is precisely what we have prosecuted Japanese and German soldiers in War Crimes Tribunals in the Pacific and Europe. We have even prosecuted American soldiers for subjecting people to waterboarding in Vietnam. Not only is torture immoral, it cannot be legally justified when considered against the backdrop of history that emanates from other wars.

What do we become, or how low must we stoop if we approve of torture? We stoop to the level of scum and thugs who murder innocent people with projectile laden suicide bombs. We stoop to the level of people who murder people like Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg. We stoop to the level of people who have kidnapped American soldiers in Iraq, killed them, and dumped their disfigured corpses in the Euphrates. We stoop to the level of men who maim or murder their wives simply for being free-willed, or wanting to go to school, drive a car, or because their wife is too beautiful. We stoop to the level of men insane enough to commandeer four planes, take hostage the planes flight crew and passengers, and use those fuel laden planes as tools of death and destruction. We must think first about what we are losing when we attempt to justify torture. We are losing the right to be morally outraged when a terrorist kills Americans abroad or at home. We are also losing the right to be outraged when torture is used against our own troops.

In closing, the issue of torture is not about coddling terrorists. It is not about giving them special privileges. It is about honoring the heritage, or at least what’s left of it, that a collection of men began when they convened to write a Constitution that defined the rights of the free people who were taking part an experiment known as the United States of America. Justifying torture undermines one of the core principles of being an American: doing unto others what we would expect to be done unto us, even to those who we know won’t afford us the same courtesy. This principle, which is a part of an even greater American Heritage, I will vigorously and fervorently defend, not for the sake of pampering terrorists, but for the sake of the country I love so much, The United States of America.

There is a grand question before Christendom today. Many conservative pundits and television talking heads rail against the evil they find in the world. They condemn, denounce and otherwise opine with feverish rhetoric, against the evils of radical Islam and the terror begotten by such unscrupulous curs, and whoever they deem in need of a good verbal volley from their moral and religious cannons. They remind us of their Christianity, their religiosity and all that accompanies such beliefs. Likewise unwitting individuals who legitimately call themselves Christians sit up and unfortunately listen. An issue that many Christians get their marching orders from conservative pundits on is the issue of torture, specifically water boarding. Many individuals out of a belief that conservatism encompasses the all-knowing Mecca of right and wrong, and that such pundits are naturally right, swallow the vomitous codswallop that comes out of their television. What they hear are explanations of how water boarding isn’t torture, and how we gain information by it. But what many forget, while buying into such odious tripe, is their moral obligations as Christians. Ladies and gentlemen, as a Christian I grew up understanding that the Bible was not a hard book to understand. That application of its principles were simple. While there are indeed deep theological issues that encompass the Scriptures, this is not the principle topic at hand.

As we examine the debate from a Biblical standpoint, let us consider what Biblical precedent is lain down for us to follow. If we cannot follow the simple principles of Christianity, how can we follow those which may not be simple? I Thessalonians 5:15 states, “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Plain, simple, yet profound in the area of Biblical precedent(s) against torture. Let us go on.

Former S.E.R.E. instructor and Navy officer Malcolm Nance, in writing for the website “Small Wars Journal,” made a short but profound statement on torture. He said, and I quote, “ We, as a nation, are having a crisis of honor.” A crisis of honor that not only extends to the very fabric of what America was founded on, but to the very Christian soul of America. So I ask you Christian America, how can we defend torture. We cannot! We Must Not!

The typical rejoinder heard from not only Christian conservatives, but all conservatives, is a brief blurb about how they do not afford us the same courtesy. That can simply be answered by quoting Luke 6:31, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And can further be qualified by adding, “even if the person doing unspeakable things to you does not afford you the same courtesy.” If Christ turned the other cheek, shouldn’t we, in our imperfect humanity, do the same? Outside of glorifying God, isn’t our aim to be as much like HIM as we can? I recently heard it asserted that Christ would have approved of torture. First, I cannot believe that with such blatant principles staring them in the face that someone would make such a completely baseless assertion! By virtue of Christ turning the other cheek, and admonishments of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “Render not evil for evil,” I can see no reason why Christ would approve of torture.

That theologically conservative Christians alike approve of, abide by and defend torture, makes me wonder if my country is no longer a country of law, but of men. A nation of men abides by torture and the usurpation of their rights, out of fear. A government politico, television pundit or even the President himself defend measures that usurp rights and explain away all moral decency as measures necessary to protect us. A nation of law falls back on the established precedent of the law, and the morality of its religious based heritage. As Christians we fall back on the moral principles and heritage of our upbringing. To deny this is to deny our nations religious heritage. It is to deny that free men are compelled by morality and just law. For a Christian to defend torture is to deny their Christian heritage and the very Biblical morality which emanates from the pages of Scripture. As I once heard it said, it is not about the terrorist, it is about our very soul. As Americans and as Christians if we approve of torture, what is next? Are we going to sacrifice what little remains of our sense of morality, and the few rights that we have after the next disastrous attack? Are we going to sacrifice our rights when the next politician, pastor, priest or minister says so? God forbid! For the surrendering and usurping of our rights should be viewed as though it were no different than the sin we cry out against. Let us be vigilant to defend the gift of liberty God has given us.

Jonathan Boatwright was raised in Central South Carolina before moving to the Philippines. His father is a former Independent Baptist Pastor, and is now a missionary in the Republic of the Philippines. He has been married for almost 2 years to his Filipina wife. He is continuing to aid his father from the United States by conducting ministry business on his father’s behalf. He also wants to be involved in Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty once he returns to the U.S. Follow him on Twitter, and go check out his new blog: the Liberty Light.